Stories: Dr. Joan Martin

Dr. Joan Martin M.B.E., MBBS

That night I was working at the Queen Elizabeth hospital for Children, Hackney Road, as a junior casualty officer. The hospital had an arrangement with the local ARP that it could be used for casualties if there were a local incident.

That night the anti-aircraft guns in Victoria Park were particularly noisy and sounded like bombs coming down. A phone call about 8.45pm told us to prepare for 30 patients from the Bethnal Green tube shelter. We had to change the cots into adult’s beds.

I had two male students from the London Hospital working with me. My immediate reaction was that it was an exercise to see how quickly we could prepare for the casualties. We had hardly completed the task when one dead person after another arrived on stretchers. The faces of the casualties were wet and mauve in colour.

It was sometime before a small boy with a broken arm gave us some idea what had happened on the station staircase. The ambulance men were extremely upset as their families were in the shelter – and demanded the stretchers and blankets back immediately. We could only agree that the casualties were beyond hope and piled the bodies in one of the consulting rooms. We spent the night treating minor injuries i.e. broken limbs, cuts and bruises.

The next morning we were told not to discuss what had happened and to this day I have tried to suppress the ghastly memories of that night – and still tend to get in a panic if I am involved in a crowd at a tube station. I’m glad to think that even at this late date some memorial will be built.

- Dr. Joan Martin.